Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

March 19, 2009

Why are SMBs and Mid-Market Enterprises interested in Cloud Computing?

As SMBs and mid-market enterprises are looking at their IT budget and face the realities to cut them, they look at what is discretionary and what can be supported through innovative IT strategies. However, at the same time they need to adopt new technology solutions that will make them more competitive in the current economic environment and prepares them to grow when the economy improves. They following arguments shed light on why these companies are actively exploring various cloud computing initiatives:

  • Vendors Making it Easy to Adopt Cloud Services – Amazon leads the cloud computing movement because they make it very easy for companies to adopt their platform and storage services with implementation and pricing services that are easy to understand and try without the need for complex contracts and pricing. Vendors that seek to service the SMB market need to learn from the simplicity and flexibility of the Amazon Web Services model.
  • Change in Appetite for Risk – SMB and mid-market companies focus on risk has changed, driven by the realities of the current economic environment. Instead of making do with outdated systems and slowing adoption of new technologies, these companies are now more comfortable with the risks associated with cloud computing solutions. This is driven by examples of success achieved by some of the high-profile companies through “show-me” examples. They are feeling more comfortable with security, access and reliability issues.
  • More Effective Backup and Disaster Recovery SMBs usually do not have remote data centers. Cloud services provide them the ability to encapsulate the internal virtual machines and replicate them to the cloud off-site. Virtualization vendors like VMware and Citrix are making this easier.
  • Shift away from New On-premise Hardware Purchases – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises look at the Key IT initiatives that are being considered in the decision-making processes, initiatives that will help save costs and show quick ROI are getting attention. IT strategies based on flexible monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment is gaining momentum. New hardware purchases and upgrades have a lower priority; business applications that are critical to the business operations are getting approval. However, implementing new business applications sometimes require additional new hardware purchases, the spending on hardware purchases can be alleviated by adopting flexible pay-as-you-use cloud computing solutions and services with business applications which are delivered software-as-a-service (examples NetSuite and Salesforce.com) or hosted in the cloud (example Rackspace).
  • Increase in Adoption of Virtualization – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises adoption of virtualization solutions enters mainstream, adoption of cloud computing solutions is becoming easier.
  • Significantly Reduced Application Implementation Time – SMBs don’t have to go through a two week purchase order process and an additional two weeks of configuration and testing before an application is available for productive use.
  • ISVs Solutions Supporting Cloud Platforms – Majority of the ISVs are now developing solutions that are multi-tenant and built to be delivered over the cloud. Some of them are using cloud platforms like force.com or Quickbase built to support cloud solutions.
  • Savings in Power and Data Center Space – Cloud computing enable SMBs to control server and storage sprawl by moving some of the applications and storage to the cloud vendors data centers, freeing up data center space and at the same time saving on power consumption costs. These SMBs do not want any more hardware in their equipment closets.

January 30, 2009

SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Managed Services, Mobility, Security, Storage — Tags: , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 4:23 pm

Recently (December’08), I had the opportunity to participate in a CFO/CIO panel with participants from New England SMB/mid-market businesses, organized by Managed Technology Partners. The topic of the panel discussion was ‘What key IT initiatives that are still being considered and issues to be considered in the decision-making processes’. Looking at the current turbulent economic conditions, SMBs and mid-market enterprises are under tremendous pressures. Most of them have never experienced these types of market conditions before. Given that, most of the panel members and attendees had a very positive attitude.

The discussion centered on not only the key IT initiatives in the current market environment but also some of the key consideration that need to be taken into account in the decision process.

Decision making process needs to take into account some key considerations:

  • Cost containment – the need to preserve cash, decisions need to consider whether an initiative will save money or make money or both
  • Focus on short-term ROI – The projects need to show short term ROI and support the cost containment focus, shift model to monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment
  • Existing investment – Review existing system utilization and put together plans for getting the most out of them. This includes considering options like costs for running/managing/upgrading existing systems, virtualization to improve utilization, alternate solutions provide that could meet the cost savings focus, etc.
  • Right-sizing – wanting to be sure right technology solutions are selected that match the business’ needs including longer-term viability
  • Existing IT resources – Expertise, utilization and availability to adequately support business needs

The key IT initiatives that made it to the top of the list are:

  • The continued need for security (data and access) and business continuity solutions – this is especially important in the current environment as studies have shown that human error or intentional tampering are the leading cause of data loss.
  • Providing remote access for users as the percentage of remote/Teleworkers increases
  • Backup and recovery that is right for “my” business – the “availability” of data is critical
  • Access (or lack of) to expertise and alignment of IT with the business
  • Determining the right support models – that reduces costs and maintains up-time
  • Vendor and VAR viability as part of the decision-making process

There was also conversation around the need for a strategic focus on IT and planning to ensure IT meet the business needs, both short and longer term.  Also, to ensure technology decisions are part of a larger discussion that provides for better prioritization, opportunities for economies of scale, making sure decisions are not make in silos, and the financial impact as it relates to other initiatives and objectives.

We are in a period of unprecedented changes to the business climate that will challenge both vendors and solutions providers in ways never seen experienced in the past. To be successful, vendors and solution providers need to take a focused approach with solutions and messaging that address the above considerations and issue.

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